Sharon Pian Chan, Executive MBA Student at MIT Sloan
From Art + marketing
The presidential election exposed deep divisions in the country, among our families, friends, in the workplace and in the classroom.
Buzzfeed’s recent findings about the power of fake news is particularly troubling. The 20-most read fake stories got more traffic than the top 20 stories reported by credible news organizations that verify facts and validate stories.
In fact, people writing fake news are making more money than journalists committed to reporting the truth, according to Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat, who talked to a fake news site in Seattle called Bipartisan Report.
Fake news sent a man with an assault rifle to a pizza shop in Washington, D.C., searching for a fictional child sex ring connected to Hillary Clinton. (Check out The Washington Post’s story.)
What are the forces behind the creation and, let’s face it, widespread consumption of lies?
Under Armour and Alphabet have similar stock structures.
Activist investors are fundamentally changing the investment market. They accumulate enough stock in publicly traded companies to influence who sits on the board, then pressure the management and board to focus on short-term returns at the expense of long-term investment. Facebook’s introduction of non-voting shares last week is a preemptive move to block this sort of intervention.
Currently, Facebook FB-0.21% has a dual-class stock structure, with Class A shares having one vote per share and Class B shares, which its founder Mark Zuckerberg and company insiders own, conferring 10 votes per share. The company intends to issue two Class C shares as a one-time stock dividend, which will grant economic ownership of Facebook, but no voting rights. This structure will preserve founder control, and enables Zuckerberg to liquidate a large portion of his shares to pursue philanthropic interests, yet still retain majority-voting control—without a majority of shares. It also means that, as Zuckerberg put it, “You don’t have to worry about losing your job over a couple of bad quarters or controversial short-term decisions, and that makes it easier to make the decisions you think are correct.” In short, predatory activist investors can’t take control and push him out.
When Google joined the social networking space in 2011 with Google+, more than 25 million people joined in the first month. Now the number of true users on Google+ is less than 1% of the total 2.2 billion users on Google, according to a report by Stone Temple Consulting.
Some of the decline may be explained by the fact that a Google+ profile was created automatically when people registered for Google. That alone would generate an impressive number of profiles, but wouldn’t necessarily lead to active use of the social media platform. According toForbes, just 6.7 million users have 50 or more posts ever, and only 3.5 million have 50 or more posts in the last 30 days.
Valuing a company is always a mix of science and art, especially for startups. Historically the science has been pretty simple: Find comparable companies and do a multiple of earnings or revenue.
However, three drivers of startup valuation have emerged that are changing the game. “Acquihire,” is the act of buying out a company for the skills and expertise of its staff. It has become so well-known that it is even listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. When Facebook buys a company like Hot Potato, it’s not for the revenue stream or products — it’s for the employees.
A lot of attention has been paid lately to big tech companies buying up smaller firms in billion-dollar deals: In January, Google acquired Nest for $3.2 billion, Facebook purchased mobile message service, WhatsApp, the following month for $19 billion; last week, it acquired virtual reality gaming company, Oculus VR, for $2 billion. There is a lot of discussion about the motives behind these large deals. Some say they are attempts to block competition, while others maintain they are efforts to stay relevant.
I see these deals as a reflection of the uncertainty companies face as they try to identify the next big thing. This is especially true for successful companies like Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOG), which are known for doing what they do tremendously well. They’ve seen similarly successful companies like Kodak struggle as technology moves on, rendering its product obsolete. As a result, companies today are eternally motivated to look outside their current business.